Calvary Road Baptist Church


Romans 6.1-5 

Helen is driving home from work on a Friday evening, fighting the brutal freeway traffic. It has been six days since those two women from Calvary Road Baptist Church knocked on her apartment door and asked if they might speak to her. As she reflects, she honestly can’t remember how they got her name and address. Perhaps it was that women’s tea she went to with her friend at work. However, they were nice. Being an attractive young woman not cursed with stunning beauty, Helen almost never spends Friday or Saturday evenings at home doing nothing. She is frequently asked out to dinner by guys or arranging to go to concerts with friends, and from time to time going away for the weekend with someone.

And so it had been the night before the two Christian women came. Though they knocked on her door about 10:30, Helen was somewhat irritated that they had come by. She didn’t like people coming to her place uninvited. After all, staying out late the night before resulted in getting a late start on the day, so they caught her before she had made herself presentable. Besides, who shows up at people’s homes uninvited? But they were nice, so she invited them in. After a few minutes of chit chat, she permitted them to show her how to be sure that when she died, she would go to heaven. About a half hour later Helen felt strangely moved and responded to the truth they had tenderly presented to her from God’s Word and received Jesus Christ as her personal Savior. To use the Apostle Paul’s terminology from Romans chapter 5, Helen had been justified by faith in Christ

Though her appearance meant that people tended to think well of her, it did not diminish the fact that she was depraved in the sight of God and a Hell-bound sinner, so she eagerly depended on God to freely give her a righteous standing, she who was not righteous, and to establish a relationship with God where there had been none. That occurred when she trusted Christ. But that was six days ago. She had been asked to Church by the women but hadn’t fulfilled her commitment to attend the next day and make public her profession of faith in Christ. She had also been asked to go to Palm Springs for the weekend by an old boyfriend. Choices had to be made, choices that would reflect over time whether she had passed from death unto a new life in Christ.

Folks, we have a question to ask about this young woman, Helen. Assuming that she really did receive Jesus Christ as her personal Lord and Savior, can she go on and live her life in the same fashion that she had lived it before she received Christ? What she certainly has the freedom to do, does she have the moral or ethical right to do? My text for today begins to answer that important question. Taking your Bible, turn to Romans 6.1-5. When you find the passage I invite you to stand with me to read today’s text: 

1  What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?

2  God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

3  Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?

4  Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

5  For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. 

No, Helen, you cannot. No, Darrell, you cannot. No, Irma, you cannot. No, David, you cannot. No, Christian, you cannot live your life after you’ve received Christ in the same fashion that you did before receiving Christ. Today we deal with the spiritual realities associated with trusting Christ as your personal Savior and being truly converted in light of the superabundance of God’s grace to deal with sin in the new Christian’s life.

Follow with me the four steps in Paul’s line of reasoning to see how impossible it is for the Christian to “continue in sin”: 


Verse 1:

“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” 

Two questions to start things off:

First, there is the question of acknowledgment: 

“What shall we say then?” 

This particular question appears four times in Paul’s letter to the Romans. Every time Paul asks this question he asks it to introduce a false inference, he asks this question to intentionally introduce for your consideration an erroneous conclusion, if you will, that people draw when they do not fully understand what he has written. He is anticipating what readers will erroneously suppose from what he wrote in Romans 4 and 5, knowing that overreacting is a common occurrence with most people. What Paul has just written leading up to our text is a presentation of God’s plan of justifying sinners. And what he has most recently indicated, in Romans 5.20, is that the magnitude of the sin that must be dealt with is always overwhelmed by the magnitude of God’s grace. So, with this question, Paul acknowledges that there are some who will misunderstand what he meant by what he has just said.

Which brings us, secondly, to the question of anticipation: 

“Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” 

Here is how people will misunderstand what Paul has written about sin and salvation, and especially what he has declared about the abundance of God’s grace. “Oh, you mean all I have to do is trust Christ, and everything will be taken care of?” Yes. “You’re one of those people who think I can just go and do anything I want!” Such a person exposes himself as wrongly concluding from the assertion of God’s grace is sufficient to deal with a Christian’s sin that Paul might be suggesting that it is possible to live after you trust Christ just as you did before you trusted Christ. What we have to keep in mind is what Paul anticipated would not be kept in mind by his readers: The grace of God, rightly understood, never encourages sin. Remember, God is holy. He is righteous. He would never do anything that would encourage sin or promote sinful conduct. Never! Ever! He wouldn’t do that. Such a thing is completely counter to His essence and nature. So, what Paul is putting forth in this portion of his letter to the Romans is not a legitimate or genuine proposition, by any means, but one that was typically put forth either by his enemies or by those who quite simply did not properly understand him. Nowadays people would word things this way: “You mean to tell me that all I need to do to get my sins forgiven is to receive Jesus Christ? Is it as simple as that? Won’t that just encourage folks to sin so God’s grace will take care of their sin problems afterward?” Those kinds of questions are asked only by enemies of the Gospel and those who completely misunderstand what Paul has written even if they are Christians. 


Verse 2:

“God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” 

Here, as you might have guessed, Paul answers those who contend that salvation by grace, justification by faith, actually encourages sinful behavior. By the way, that is precisely the reasoning that is advanced by the Roman Catholic Church. I have heard their theologians argue that very point myself, in person, insisting that if you believe the Bible teaches salvation by faith in Christ alone you are encouraging people to sin flagrantly. No, you’re not. That is the opposite of what Paul means by what he writes.

As to Paul’s reaction to the hypothetical proposition he raises in verse 1: 

“God forbid.” 

This is the way Paul typically answers a question for which the answer is “Absolutely, positively, no way.” It is a powerful denial of a false assertion. So effective is this way of answering “No” that the Apostle Paul used the phrase at least seven times in his letter to the Romans.[1]

As to the reality that Paul seeks to address, he continues in verse 2: 

“How shall we, that are dead to sin,...” 

Paul emphatically rejects the absurd logic that suggests the abundance of God’s grace would encourage a believer to sin since it will only be forgiven anyway. He uses the strongest denial in Greek to express his shock at such a suggestion as that, and whenever he deals with a ridiculous question. The thought that God’s grace would give license for Christians to sin was a detestable notion to Paul. Christians, dying to the realm of sin, becomes Paul’s main theme in verses 2 through 13. He will go on to discuss sin as if it were a reigning king in Romans 6.14, 17, and 21 that rules over unbelievers. Through vivid imagery, Paul will also picture how believers die to sin’s dominion when they are justified, verse 7. Therefore as death transfers someone to another realm, believers are also transferred from the realm of sin and from death’s dominion[2] to a new realm of power found in resurrection life.[3] I want to read commentator Rene A. Lopez’ insightful statement about this matter: 

However, Paul’s rhetorical question raises other questions. Does Paul mean: (1) Christians cannot sin at all, (2) Christians do not habitually sin or (3) Christians must not sin? The options are: (a) Christians cannot sin because they no longer live positionally in the realm of sin and death. Persisting in sin (as Scripture and experience widely support) is not the same as living in its realm. That is, a foreigner may practice habits customary in his home land while living in another land. Therefore removal from a realm does not necessarily result in relinquishing all old habits. (b) Adherents to the first view go on to acknowledge two realities: Paul addresses believers in chapter 6 and true believers cannot live as if sin continually rules. Thus Christians do not habitually sin. Such a view is fraught with difficulties. For one it strips Paul’s use of imperatives of any real significance (vv. 12-13). Why command holy living if it will automatically occur? It also introduces a distinction (committing sin habitually vs. committing sins) foreign to chapters 6-8. In fact, if one believes Christians cannot go one day without sinning, what else can it be called but habitual sin (1 John 1:8, 10)? (c) The last option fits best. Paul suggests that to deliberately continue sinning is abhorrent and unimaginable. It is inconceivable to think grace encourages sin. Sin is never an authentic Christian experience. The fact that one can abuse grace is real (or else why pen chaps 6-8) but repugnant to Paul. Christians should not and must not sin as a pattern! This view gives the only logical reason why Paul warns against abusing grace (in 6:1) and why he commands (in 6:12) that Christians must not sin. Why say this if Christians could not repeatedly practice old habits?[4] 

Can people, after they are saved, live lives of unregenerate sinfulness, just like they did before their conversion? Paul begins answering that question by pointing out the reality that “we,” believers, have died to sin and therefore we must not. Our entire relationship to sin has forever been altered. My friends, when asking yourselves whether or not our imaginary Helen can do after Christ what she did before Christ, remember this: She has died to sin. Having been born into the realm of Adam, when she trusted Christ as her personal Savior she died with Christ. And when she died, she died to that old Adamic realm where sin ruled and reigned over people. That may not be the way Christians “feel” sometimes, but that’s spiritual reality, nevertheless, according to the Word of God.

As to the believer’s response to what Paul has written and to what is true for the Christian: Because you and I, and Helen, have died to sin, the question we must ask ourselves is this: How shall we live any longer therein? How can I live in the future as I lived in the past? If you are dead to sin, how can you live in sin any longer? This is a rhetorical question that Paul asks. The answer is not specifically given because it is so obvious that answering is completely unnecessary. How can Helen, who is dead to sin since she has trusted Christ, live after Christ as she did before Christ? She can’t. Neither can you. Neither can I. Sinless? No. But different? Yes. 


Understanding that this is only a partial explanation of why the believer cannot live in sin and that the full explanation covers all of chapters 6, 7 and 8, let’s see how Paul uses the ordinance of believer baptism to illustrate his point.

First, by pointing out the meaning of baptism, verse 3: 

“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” 

When Paul writes “Know ye not” at the beginning of a question like this he is admitting that the readers, Roman Christians, most of whom he had never met before and therefore did not win to Christ or personally teach, already know something about what he is saying, though they may not understand the full implications. Paul, then, is more fully explaining things that he expects them already to know something about. And why would they know something about the significance of baptism? Because they, being obedient Christians and Church members, have themselves already been baptized. I say this because there simply is no record in God’s Word of a believer not being baptized. This is because, while baptism does not save anyone, it is a step of obedience taken by people after they have been saved, and is a profoundly important public statement for a believer in Jesus Christ to make. Paul explains to his readers, then, who have been baptized, that being baptized for Jesus’ sake is more than just a step of obedience. It is actually a public way of showing that you have stepped out of the domain of Adam and into the domain of Christ, out of the realm where sin rules and into the realm where grace super abounds. Understand that baptism does not accomplish this shift, but it does demonstrate in a way nothing else can that this shift has occurred in your life. When Jesus Christ died He died for you. You died to sin. That’s what your baptism means. Even if you didn’t fully comprehend it at the time, as the Roman believers obviously did not fully comprehend at the time.

The message of baptism also points out that the believer cannot live in sin, verse 4: 

“Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” 

The first part of verse 4 shows us a past parallel: 

“Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death.” 

If you have ever been to a loved one’s funeral, you know that a dear one’s passing occurs before he is buried. Burial doesn’t end that person’s life. Burial is the exclamation point, the finale, the prominent testimony to the fact that death has already occurred. Baptism is parallel to death in that way. A person isn’t justified when he is baptized. A person doesn’t die to sin when he is baptized. He is justified, he is saved, he dies to sin when he receives Christ as his Savior. Baptism follows that wonderful event and is supposed to show that it has, in fact, occurred. Now for the second part of the verse, the present practice: 

“that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” 

If the first part of the verse shows that baptism is a past parallel to the death of Christ, what do we see here? We see the resurrection of Christ alongside something else. But it isn’t baptism. Baptism attests to Christ’s death and our identification with His death. But what is it in the Christian’s experience that attests to Christ’s resurrection and our identification with His resurrection? It isn’t our believer baptism. It’s our walking in newness of life! Know what that means? It means that when I baptize someone, I shouldn’t say, “Buried in the likeness of His death. Raised in the likeness of His resurrection.” What I should say is something like “Buried in the likeness of His death. Raised to walk in the likeness of His resurrection.” That’s the message of baptism and the message of the Christian lifestyle. 


Verse 5:

“For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.” 

As to the past fact of it: 

“For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death.” 

Here we have the first half of our famous first class conditional statement. If such and such is true, which it is, then such and such is true. Please understand that the phrase “we have been planted together” does not refer to baptism. Though I don’t have time to go into the reasons why I’ll be delighted to show you after Church tonight that “we have been planted together” refers to the salvation event. To be planted together actually means that every genuine believer is connected to Christ’s death, which we already know from verse 3. The truth of this we already know.

As to the predicted future of it: 

“we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.” 

If we have been connected with Christ’s death, which genuine believers have been, then we will also be connected with Christ’s resurrection in the future. Did you and others who trusted Christ die to sin? Yes. Then know this: You will be resurrected as He was. 

How do we answer our question about Helen? The proposition is, can Helen live her life after trusting Christ just like she did before trusting Christ? The refutation is, absolutely not. She is dead to sin. How can she live any longer in sin? Not that Helen can’t sin. She certainly can sin. But how can she live in the realm and domain of sin when she has died to sin and now lives in the realm and domain of grace? It doesn’t make sense. The explanation used by Paul is found in the meaning and message of believer baptism. If Helen is saved, she will be baptized. And her baptism will testify that she died to sin with Christ. Not only that, her new lifestyle will attest to the fact that she’s going to be resurrected, as Christ was.

Can Christians live like lost people? Oh, I suppose they can for a while. But I’m a Christian, and I couldn’t live like I was lost. And you know why? Because the most illogical, the most unreasonable, the most absurd, the most nonsensical, and the most ridiculous thing there is is the person who is dead to sin living like he isn’t dead to sin. It’s irrational as well as wrong.

If Helen knows Jesus Christ she has been justified by faith. She has been transferred from the headship of Adam to the headship of Christ. She no longer lives in a universe in which sin rules and reigns over her, although obviously, she can commit acts of personal sin. However, she now lives in a universe in which God’s empowering grace rules and reigns supreme in the person of Jesus Christ.

So, eventually, she will be baptized. Why not now, Helen? Eventually, she will live like she is dead to sin. Why not live like that now, Helen? Eventually, she will walk in newness of life. Why not do that now, Helen?


[1] Romans 3.31; 6.2, 15; 7.7; 9.14; 11.1, 16

[2] Romans 6.6-7, 9-12, 14, 17-22

[3] Romans 6.4-5, 8, 10-11, 13, 18-20, 22-23

[4] Rene A. Lopez, Romans Unlocked: Power To Deliver, (Springfield, MO: 21st Century Press, 2005), pages 124-125.

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